It meant the world to Andrew Parthum to be able to help students from the South End annually with a home-grown scholarship effort, and it’s a legacy that he will leave behind for years to come – and a legacy that has paid forward opportunity and impact already in years past.
Parthum, a long-time Southender and member of the Blackstone/Franklin Squares Neighborhood Association (BFSNA), passed away on Dec. 29 after an eight-year battle with brain cancer that accelerated under COVID-19.
On Tuesday night, Jan. 19, BFSNA President Toni Crothall allowed members to use the first half of their online meeting to remember and appreciate Parthum, who had been a former president of the organization, but more importantly was the founder and the force behind the Association’s annual Scholarship fundraiser and disbursement. The scholarship annual awards scholarships to students from the South End headed off to college.
“It’s been a difficult journey over the last few months and it’s been an honor to take care of him and wonderful to love him over the last 31 years,” said Bob Leonard, Parthum’s long-time partner. “He will be remembered by so many people. I’ve heard from so many people in so many quarters how much he touched their lives.”
Leonard said Parthum was diagnosed eight years ago with cancer, but it got much more difficult in the last 18 months, with COVID-19 making it so much more difficult. Everything came to a head in September and he passed away three weeks ago, but had wonderful health care to the end.
The scholarship fund was his crowning achievement, said Leonard.
“He was so happy to do it and it made him so happy,” he said.
The scholarship fund was a response by Parthum and some of his friends to the needs of students in the community – a heartfelt response from him to a lot of the animosity that had grown in the 1990s as the South End began to change. He told the Sun that when criticized and when people got angry about those things, his response was to do something about it – to do something to make it better. That is what he did, raising little bits of money with other BFSNA neighbors to fund the fledgling scholarship and host the check ceremony in his small apartment.
Lisa Jenks had been an early helper of Parthum’s on the scholarship and helped to take it to the place it is today in being able to fund multiple scholarships to multiple South End students heading to college.
“Andrew was like a younger Santa Claus,” she said. “He had rosy cheeks and a twinkle in his eye. He had such a great energy and was the kind of person you want to work with. He had so much affection for young people and the neighborhood.”
Jeremy Kazangian-Amory, of St. Stephen’s Youth Programs, said Parthum cared so much for the teens in the South End, many of whom were scholarship winners from the St. Stephens programs. He said the scholarship was a necessary influx for the teens he worked with, as it helped absorb expenses often overlooked like transportation or technology needs. Those are things, he said, that can often cause students to withdraw from school and give up on that dream.
“The generosity he showed every teen was truly incredible,” he said. “I remember he took every moment to get to know the young people. He had an energy and humility about him that was truly infectious. We at St. Stephens are so grateful for all he did.”
Even Mayor Martin Walsh sent in a pre-recorded video calling Parthum a great Bostonian.
“Andrew Parthum was a great man and a great Bostonian,” said the mayor.
“His legacy will live on inspire us to make the world a better place than we found it,” he continued.
BFSNA Treasurer Matt Mues said donations to the scholarship in Parthum’s name had been pouring in.
“His memorial has raised $10,000 in 20 days,” said Mues.